Craig Davis
Nov 16, 2015

Forget big data: how about big wisdom?

Craig Davis knows you don't want to read another piece about 'big data' any more than he wants to write one. Which is why this isn't one.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis

It’s exhausting listening to people blathering on about big data and how it’s going to change everything in the world for the better, because it won’t. No more than electronica, cat memes or the comedic contribution of Donald Trump.

But I’m heartened by conversations I’ve had lately with business leaders. They’re asking questions about how best to engage and motivate smart people in their companies, and how to get the best out of bright young graduates who see their life and work as indivisible. It’s not data that’s in short supply here, it’s our ability to understand and connect with human beings.  

The new rule of thumb seems to be that the more digital, data-driven and disruptive a company’s orientation is, the more prone to distraction are its people. I had a chance to meet with the former head of Google people development last month, who had since left to work at Twitter and another high-profile tech company in Silicon Valley. Her view of these issues was straightforward — there’s a fine line between being an innovator and disruptor and being addled with too much information. The enemy of disruption is distraction.

In a recent interview, Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, said “every company is about people” and in an age when collaboration and adaptive leadership are critical, it’s how we cultivate their wisdom and compassion in companies that will determine the success.  

To quote management guru, Fred Kofman, “wisdom without compassion is ruthless. Compassion without wisdom is folly.”

Put all your data to one side for a moment and take a few deep breaths for yourself. It feels good to get reacquainted with that old-fashioned feeling of being human.

Craig Davis is the founder of Brandkarma and the former CCO of Publicis Mojo, Saatchi & Saatchi Asia and JWT Worldwide. He is on the board of Conscious Capitalism and blogs at 

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